Very frequent flyers have another top-tier level to consider: Gold Elite from Etihad, the Abu Dhabi-based airline that's also a partner of Virgin Australia's Velocity Rewards program.
Etihad's Chief Commercial Officer Peter Baumgartner explained that Gold Elite is "a way of giving something extra back to people who use the airline the most. The intention is to make them feel specially rewarded for their high level of loyalty."
Clearly, Etihad isn't just using ultra-luxurious Swarovski amenity kits to appeal to the big spenders.
While Gold was the previous top of the Etihad ladder, Gold Elite gives extra benefits:
- 20kg extra luggage allowance regardless of class
- access to Etihad's Diamond First class lounges
- a guarantee of a seat with 12 hours' notice, even if they have to bump someone off the plane for you
- free Silver frequent flyer membership for a person of your choosing
- appoint someone to manage your bookings and account
To get to the top tier, you'll need to take more than 60 Etihad flights a year, or collect more than 125,000 Tier Miles with Etihad. (They're only available on Etihad flights, but you do get 50 percent extra for flying in Pearl Business Class and 100 percent extra for Diamond First Class.)
With the class bonus for Business Class, you'd need to take four Sydney-Abu Dhabi-London return flights in Business to qualify.
The previous top tier, Gold, comes at 50,000 Tier Miles or 40 flights a year -- which works out to two of those Sydney-Abu Dhabi-London Business Class returns.